Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Yankees Need Hughes to Have Backbone

With the Yankees tightening the purse strings for the coming season, the Bronx Bombers are going to be relying on their aging rotation more than ever. They'll especially be looking to guys like Phil Hughes, Ivan Nova or David Phelps to bolster the young, back end of the staff.

So it was not good news today when the Yankees announced Hughes was shut down with a sore back and sent to a spin specialist. It's certainly not good news for Hughes personally since he has a history of being somewhat fragile and will be a free agent for the first time next year.

After an up and down 2012 campaign that saw Hughes pitch to a 3.70 ERA in the second half, pitching coach Larry Rothschild had Hughes work on his flexibility in the off-season. Hughes felt great when he reported to camp, but experienced upper back stiffness between his shoulder blades during pitchers fielding practice (PFP) on Monday.

Word came in late in the afternoon on Tuesday that Hughes was being sent to a spine specialist. Though it sounds alarming, the Yankees are saying it is only a precautionary measure. Manager Joe Girardi went on to add that he would be more concerned if it were a lower back issue, because they can really tend to "linger".

Hughes knows from injuries; he was in his second big league start in Texas in 2007 when his no-hit bid in the 7th inning got interrupted by a pulled hamstring.  It was the beginning of physical issues over the next several years that prompted fans to think the still young Hughes was a bust. His ailments included a rib injury, an ankle injury (while he rehabbed the hamstring), and a dead arm that had a major impact on the 2010 season.

Last year Hughes started poorly, but came on in the second half and won 16 games. The Yankees are going to need that second half Hughes if they are to compete in the very balanced AL East this year. And the 26-yr old Hughes will need to stay healthy in order to earn a major contract before the 2014 season.

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